Border dispute wreaks havoc in Slovene/Croatian relationsSlovenia is formally withdrawing support for Croatian membership in the EU, according to a 23 September press release from the office of Prime Minister Anton Rop. The move follows yet another incident on the still-non-demarcated border between Slovenia and Croatia.
On 22 September, Slovene People’s Party (SLS) leader Janez Podobnik was forcibly taken into custody after a visit to Joško Joras, whose house sits on the Slovene/Croatian border and who has been the focus of several bilateral disputes since the dissolution of Yugoslavia in 1991 [For more on Joras, see: RFE/RL / 25.09.04 / Analysis: Slovenia Threatens To Block Croatian EU Membership].
Podobnik refused to show his papers at the border, insisting that Joras’s home is on Slovene territory and therefore he was not crossing any border. Podobnik and 12 other SLS members were arrested after a minor scuffle. They were released after several hours.
The Prime Minister’s press release calls the 22 September incident “unacceptable,” and says that it “means that Slovenia cannot, at least for the meantime [sic.], continue backing Croatia’s bid to join the EU.” Rop added, "Croatia is distancing itself from its path to the EU, and I regret that" [UVI / 23.09.04 / Rop: Slovenia Can No Longer Support Croatian Accession to EU].
Following the press release, the Slovene government passed several decisions over the incident. The government condemned the Croatian border police’s handling of the incident, and Croatia’s overall attitude toward the border dispute. The government also formally decided to appeal to the European Commission to take steps against Croatia and to block the country’s prospective EU membership, however the National Assembly must ratify the decision before anything can be done [UVI / 23.09.04 / Government's decisions about relations with Croatia].
The government expects to formally complain to the EU by next week. For now, the EU has requested a full investigation by the Croatian government into the incident. An EC spokeswoman told Reuters, "For the moment there is no reason to change our policy towards Croatia, but we want more information about that particular incident" [Reuters / 24.09.04/ Slovenia to seek EU action over Croat border row].
Parliamentary elections will be held on 3 October in Slovenia, and so much about the incident and the Slovene government’s reaction are being viewed through the prism of local politics not only in Slovenia but also in Croatia [Glory of Carniola / 23.09.04 / Election Season Antics, ICE / 24.09.04 / Border dispute has Slovenia withdraw support for Croatia's membership in EU].
The border is just one of several unresolved issues between Slovenia and Croatia, which hopes to join the EU before 2009.